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U.S. Sees Biggest One-Day Spike In New Deaths In A Month; Vaccine Trial Volunteer Suffered Spinal Cord Inflammation; CDC Chief: Masks May Offer More Protection Than A Vaccine; Slow-Moving Sally Unloads Punishing Rain, Epic Flooding; Trump Taking Questions At White House Briefing. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 16, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:11]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news. An emergency unfolding in parts of Alabama and Florida where relentless rain from tropical storm Sally is triggering historic flooding. With rescues underway right now and half a million people without power.

Also breaking this hour the U.S. Coronavirus death toll now topping 196,000 people after the country saw the highest one day death rate here in the United States in a month yesterday.

And we're standing by for President Trump to take reporters' questions on a White House briefing that's about to begin. It follows the President's town hall last night in which he once again downplayed the importance of mask in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Today the head of the CDC said mask may offer people even more protection than a potential vaccine. All that coming up.

And let's start with the coronavirus pandemic right now. CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles for us.

Nick, we're learning more and more about plans when a vaccine and we hope it'll be soon becomes available.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The White House goal anyway is to within 24 hours of the green light from the FDA, they hope to begin distributing doses to vaccine locations.

Now, states have been told to be ready for that as early as November, but, Wolf, there are still so many questions remaining. Just one of them, but it's a big one, will enough Americans trust this vaccine? Will enough Americans -- will enough Americans take this vaccine for it to really make a difference?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): A limited targeted supply of vaccine might be available before the end of the year but in enough arms to really make a difference.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I think we're probably looking at third -- late second quarter, third quarter 2021.

WATT: And there still could be plenty pitfalls in this process. AstraZeneca recently paused trials again, after an illness in a volunteer. CNN has now obtained an internal company document detailing that after a second dose, a previously healthy woman in her 30s was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder. The company had claimed that diagnosis was never confirmed.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: It's absolutely critical that the American public have complete transparencies about these clinical trials.

WATT: If and when we get a vaccine?

PAUL MANGO, DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR POLICY: In terms of a principle and an aspiration, it'll be that no American has to pay a single dime out of pocket to get a vaccine.

WATT: But listen to this.

REDFIELD: I might even go so far as to say that this facemask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take the COVID vaccine. If I don't get an immune response the vaccines not going to protect me. This facemask will.

WATT: The latest national numbers we have from just yesterday aren't great, nearly 40,000 new cases, 1,293 lives lost the most in a month.

One wedding in Maine now linked to at least 176 cases and the deaths of seven people who didn't even attend the event.

DR. NIRAV SHAH, DIRECTOR, MAINE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: These are all individuals who got COVID from somebody who was at the wedding, or somebody who got it from somebody else at the wedding.

WATT: Fifty thousand cases and counting on college campuses. At least Five Colleges that opened in person have moved to online only as cases mount. That's wrong, says the President's advisor Dr. Scott Atlas in a New York post op-ed, "Universities should stay open even when they see an increase in cases. Science tells us that young adults are at extremely low risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19.

CDC data does show of the more than 196,000 Americans killed by COVID, 397 were under age 25. But the jury is still out on how they act as vectors for this virus.

Still, the big 10 will now after pressure from the President and others play football this fall, but no fans in the stands.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And Wolf, more evidence that the black and brown community is still being hit the hardest by this virus. Now hospitalization rates among the Latin x population in this country more than four times the white population.

[17:05:08]

And that, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci today, he called that extraordinary and unacceptable. Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick white reporting for us. Thank you very much.

President Trump has scheduled a briefing this hour. He'll face questions from reporters about his latest remarks downplaying the importance of wearing masks.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, the President once again at odds with his own top health experts when it comes to this critical life and death issue of simply wearing a mask.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is likely to be asked about that. He'll be holding a news conference in just a short while from now but senior administration officials from the White House of the Department of Health and Human Services are in cleanup mode today as the President continues to downplay the importance of wearing masks.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control said masks could do a better job of protecting people from the coronavirus than a vaccine. The White House press secretary earlier today insisted that the President has already and has always supported mask wearing, but of course that's not true.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump's questionable comments on the coronavirus keep piling up leaving it to top administration officials to clean up the mess. Today, it was Dr. Robert Redfield stern as the Director of the Centers for Disease Control made this dramatic case for masks.

REDFIELD: I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent. And if I don't get an immune response, the vaccines not going to protect me, this facemask will.

ACOSTA: That came after the President argued against wearing masks at an ABC town hall.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way a lot of people don't want to wear masks. There are a lot of people think that masks are not good. And there are a lot of people that as an example you have --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are those people? TRUMP: I'll tell you who those people are, waiters --

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany falsely claimed the President is consistently pro mask.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President has always supported mask wearing.

ACOSTA: But that's not true as Mr. Trump has repeatedly ridiculed Democrat Joe Biden for wearing them.

TRUMP: It gives him a feeling of security if I were a psychiatrist. Right? Now, I'd say, I'd say this guy's got some big issues.

ACOSTA: President insisted Biden somehow hasn't kept his promises on masks.

TRUMP: They said at the Democrat Convention, they're going to do a national mandate. They never did it because they've checked out and they didn't do it.

And a quite -- a good question, as you ask, like Joe Biden, they said we're going to do a national mandate on mask.

ACOSTA: Biden who has urged governors to adopt mask mandates nationwide responded to that at a news conference.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm not the president. He's the president.

President's first responsibility is to protect the American people and he won't. It's utterly disqualified.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump also made a pitch for the controversial concept of herd immunity for ridding the nation of the virus that we called it herd mentality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure. With time it goes away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop herd, like a herd mentality.

ACOSTA: Only to have the White House Chief of Staff say that's not under consideration.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That is not something that the White House chose to employ.

ACOSTA: The President also contradicted himself telling one town hall attendee he didn't downplay the virus.

TRUMP: Well, I didn't downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up played it in terms of action. ACOSTA: After confessing to Bob Woodward, that's exactly what he did.

TRUMP: I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.

BOB WOODWARD, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: Yes.

TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.

ACOSTA: Pressed on his weeks of promises of a health care plan, the President insisted one is coming.

TRUMP: I have it already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's -- you've been trying to strike down the existing conditions.

TRUMP: But does it matter? I have it already. And it's much better plan for you. And it's a much better plan.

ACOSTA: One other COVID-19 stumbled, the Department of Health and Human Services announced top spokesman Michael Caputo is taking a leave of absence after accusing government scientists of sedition on Facebook saying in a statement Caputo will be focusing on "his health and the well-being of his family. And we'll be on leave for the next 60 days."

President is creating other distractions tweeting out an altered video of Biden labeled manipulated media on Twitter. But the White House tried to stay away from that one.

MCENANY: I have to refer you to the campaign. I'm not here to talk about Joe Biden.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: As for the White House Press Secretary saying she is not at the briefings to talk about Joe Biden, that is not true. She has bashed the Democratic nominee at previous briefings.

But this upcoming news conference for the President will be an attempt really to hit the reset button for him and his administration as one Trump campaign advisor put it to me earlier today about the President's town hall last night, it didn't help. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House for us with what's going on. Thanks very much.

[17:10:02]

Let's discuss all of this and more. The former CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden is joining us.

Dr. Frieden, thanks so much for joining us.

And as you heard yesterday more than 1,200 Americans died from coronavirus, the highest one day total since mid-August. What does that tell you about where we might be heading coming into the fall?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, what really concerns me is the risk that we will get hardened to these numbers. We'll just get used to them. And you have to put it into context. You heard about the seven people who died as a result of one wedding that didn't follow precautions in Maine. None of them went to the wedding. That emphasizes that we're all connected.

We're coming up on officially 200,000 people killed by COVID. The actual number is higher because not all deaths have been identified. And this is just a horrifying number. It's more people than die from suicide or overdose or homicide or HIV. In fact, COVID is on track to be the number three leading cause of death in all of the U.S. for this year.

BLITZER: Yes. The seven people who died got the virus from people who did attend the wedding and then they left, they spread it around and that's what happens very sadly.

You also heard the reporting on AstraZeneca's phase three trial, the document shows that one participant had a very serious spinal cord inflammation. How big of a concern is that news? And could that slow down this process of trying to reach a successful vaccine?

FRIEDEN: Well, on the one hand, I'm encouraged that they did halt the trial, that they have taken a pause to look. But on the other hand, I'm frustrated that the companies are not providing all of the protocols for the public.

The public, for most of these vaccines is paying for this through our taxpayer dollars, billions of dollars. And the drug companies need to be upfront with what all of their protocols are, when they're going to look at the data, what they're going to look at, what they're going to look for, what they'll consider to be safe, what they'll consider to be effective.

Here's the bottom line, for a vaccine to work it doesn't just have to be effective and safe and accessible. It also has to be trusted. And anything that's done to undermine trust makes it less likely that we'll be able to get the vaccine out. And even if we do have a safe, effective vaccine that most people take, it's not going to make the pandemic magically go away.

This is not a fairy tale ending to the pandemic. We still need to chip away at this pandemic with masks, with contact tracing, with testing, with finding and stopping outbreaks, with restricting certain higher risk activities like choirs and with vaccination. Vaccination is an important tool but only if we use it right.

BLITZER: You know, it was interesting today that Dr. Redfield urged Americans to wear masks big time saying their face masks may actually even offer a better guarantee of protection than a vaccine that we all hope is coming down the road. Tell us why he believes that and what you think?

FRIEDEN: Well, on the one hand, there is emerging evidence that if everyone masks up very effectively, there's very little spread of COVID. So masks can be very effective.

And it's really important to emphasize that even with a vaccine, this is not the be all and end all. We have a great vaccine for measles and we still have 140,000 deaths a year from measles. We have an OK vaccine for flu, which may be the kind of efficacy we have for COVID and we still have hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and 10s of thousands of deaths from flu.

So a vaccine isn't going to take this off the table but it is a very important tool.

What I would say is that the benefit of vaccine is you take it once or twice and it may protect you for a year or much longer. We don't know that yet. A vaccine is potentially the single most important tool we have to fight COVID. But it's only one tool. And we need that comprehensive response to chip away at the pandemic so we can get our jobs back, get our educational system back in person and save 10s of thousands of lives.

Going back to the first question you asked, 200,000 deaths in the U.S. is a reflection of a failing national response. If you look at Germany, one fifth our death rate. If you look at South Korea, 80 times fewer deaths than we've had. These are live that have been lost and jobs that have been lost because we haven't had an organized, consistent, coherent federal response.

BLITZER: Yes. In South Korea they've had about 400 people die from Coronavirus since early March when their first death occurred just around the same time the first death occurred here in the United States. We're approaching 200,000, their country of 55 million they've had about 400 people who have died from coronavirus.

[17:15:05]

They were doing something very, very right. Clearly we were not.

Dr. Tom Frieden, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

FRIEDEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. So, we're going to continue our coverage on coronavirus. But right now want to get the latest on the flood disaster that's unfolding in major parts of Florida and Alabama right now triggered by Hurricane Sally. Now it's a tropical storm.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking the late breaking developments for us.

So Jennifer, hundreds of people have had to be rescued from these floods. What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. That's in Escambia County. That's near Pensacola. That's where we've had incredible amounts of rain.

We've seen more than two feet of rain in that location. That's also very close to where the storm came on shore early this morning. And so we got a push of water from the storm as well due to the surge. A lot of the bridges in that area are damaged as well as the roads. So all of that will have to be evaluated as well.

The storm right now is slowly weakening. It's got 60 mile per hour winds.

But keep in mind this storm made landfall almost 12 hours ago and it is only 50 miles north of Pensacola. So the storm is still moving incredibly slowly. That's why we're going just continue to see that flood threat all across the coast as well as Alabama into Georgia. Atlanta even getting on the rain now as well.

This area shaded in white, that's more than 20 inches of rain that's as high as our color table goes. Some areas have received 24 inches of rain, and some areas even higher. We're still continuing to get data in compiling those totals.

But you can see even the area shaded in hot peak that's 10 inches of rain. So this is far reaching, its widespread. This is a big storm and so that's why you're going to see that flood threat reach anywhere from say, Western Alabama all the way over into Georgia.

And even into the Carolinas, Wolf, as we get into the next couple of days, here are those flash flood warnings in effect for the Panhandle as well as portions of Alabama and Georgia. Those are going to spread to the north as we go into the next 24 hours or so on shore.

So winds of 60 miles per hour, it is picking up just a tad bit of speeds seven miles per hour which is still very, very slow. But as we get into the next 12 to 18 hours it will start to pick up speed and it will move out into the Carolinas. Still is about a 30 mile per hour storm there and dumping a lot of rain as well for South Carolina, North Carolina on through the weekend, Wolf.

BLITZER: Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray, thank you very much for that update.

We're going to continue to follow the breaking news here as we stand by for President Trump to take questions at a White House briefing. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:22:07]

BLITZER: As we wait for President Trump to take reporters' questions at today's White House briefing, we're joined now by the Mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber.

Mayor Gelber, thank you so much for joining us.

Hundred and fifty-two Floridians were reported dead from the coronavirus today, as your state nears 13,000 people lost to this virus. But the President is still defending his response to the pandemic. I want you to listen to this. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low income families and minority communities?

TRUMP: Yes. Well, I didn't downplay it. I actually, in many ways I up played it in terms of action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Mayor, the President won't even acknowledge something he said publicly on the record and those taped interviews with the journalist Bob Woodward. How concerned are you about what's to come this fall as this virus clearly and sadly continues to spread?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Look until we get a vaccine, information is our vaccine, we have to know. And it's clearly downplayed. I know, I was a mayor trying to convince people to socially distance themselves in February and March. And we were being told, they were being told they don't have to worry about it.

I mean, I've listened to him say, it's really unbelievable to me. We had 32 deaths today in Miami Dade County, 32. And that's much better than other days.

When 32 deaths becomes a good day, you know, there's been a total failure. And he keeps telling people don't worry about masks, don't worry about the disease. It's killing enormous amounts of people every day. And the response seems to have been let's just normalize this and get used to it. And that's obviously horrific, and it weighs on everybody who sees it on a daily basis.

BLITZER: Yes, we can't get used to this nearly 200,000 Americans over the past six months are now dead from this virus.

I want to read part of a scathing letter, Mayor, that you wrote the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis urging him among other things to institute a statewide mask mandate. And you write this, "With regard to the mask requirement, too many people are still unconvinced that they need to wear a mask. Unquestionably, many follow President Trump's unfortunate example."

How much more difficult is it, Mayor, to enforce mask wearing when the President publicly claims without any scientific proof that there are a lot of people, I'm quoting him now, that think mask are not good?

GELBER: Look, the President has a following of people that it's pretty obvious as he says we'll follow him anywhere. Yet, for some reason, he has not harnessed that obedience or that, you know, respect whatever you want to call it and said to them, wear a mask, it's the right thing to do. He hasn't done that.

And, you know, we've instituted 1000. We've already given 1000 fines in my city, my little city for failure to wear a mask. And we get visitors from all over and they just don't do it. Our governor won't do it. We have done it in our county, but we get people from everywhere.

[17:25:12]

It -- I mean, it's the easiest thing to do. And by the way, you know, when you have a curfew and you have capacity limits, that affects the economy. Wearing a mask doesn't affect the economy. It just saves lives.

So, as we are reopening, if we don't have a mask mandate, if the president doesn't tell people please, please do this, I have no idea why this has become a political other than the fact that it seems to be the President's, you know, the way in which he campaigns is to divide people and create disagreements. But in a pandemic, you need unity, you need people on the same page, you need them to do what every other president has done when they're -- when we are at our darkest times to appeal to people to bring out their best, their better angels.

BLITZER: The Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins says, and I'm quoting him now, "the unfortunate mix of science and politics is contributing to vaccine hesitancy." What are you doing to counteract those fears among your residents of Miami Beach? I'm sure many of them have those fears that a vaccine might not be safe and effective. Even if they hear it is, let's say from the President.

GELBER: I think they're going to -- listen, we have really, and I think really, because of this application of leadership, we're in a pickle right now everywhere. People don't trust each other. They don't trust science. They don't trust obvious healthcare direction.

So, in in that situation, we don't know what to tell anybody. I am begging people to wear a mask. Our police officers and code officers come up to people who are not wearing a mask, put themselves in peril to get them to wear masks. We give masks away free and then we see the president holding rallies where he doesn't seem to care that he's relishing it.

People don't have faith government right now. And by the way, that's all you really have when you don't have a vaccine. You need people to have faith. You need people to listen and we need to be on the same page.

BLITZER: You certainly do. Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

GELBER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: A quick note to our viewers, be sure to watch CNN tomorrow night for a live presidential town hall with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. He joins our own Anderson Cooper in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Again, it's tomorrow 8 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

And stay with us. We have an updated forecast now on where tropical storm Sally is heading. Plus an update on all the other storms out in the Atlantic. And we're waiting for President Trump to start taking reporters' questions at a White House briefing. Much more of our coverage coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:21]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, truly punishing rain and epic flooding going on in Florida and Alabama. It's being unleashed by what's now Tropical Storm Sally. I want to get some more in all the breaking news. The Orange Beach, Alabama Mayor Tony Kennon is joining us right now.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. How bad is the damage? How bad is the flooding from the storm where you are?

MAYOR TONY KENNON, ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA: (INAUDIBLE), it was like expected 24, 46 (ph) hours ago. This should have been nothing more than a nuisance rain event. But Sally took a hard right there at the last minute and jump from a category 1 to a strong category 2 and at 20 inches of rain or more, it was devastating as far as amount of flooding, trees down. We're without power on the entire island. Beach erosion was devastating.

You know, and a lot of our streets, you can't move around on the island. We're going to have to do a lot of work just to get mobile.

BLITZER: How about the people where you are in Orange Beach? What can you tell us there? Had there been rescues? How are the folks doing?

KENNON: Yes, we had a significant amount of spurge or rising water level last night. So between about 12 in daylight, we ran 120 plus emergency runs. We have about 60 people in the -- in our rec center where -- in rescue unit. It was really hairy there for a while. I going to give all the kudos in the world (ph) to my police and fire who didn't hesitate, got out in the storm and went after those folks that were need.

BLITZER: And I understand your entire island is without power right now. Any idea when it might be restored?

KENNON: That is correct. We don't know. Baldwin County got hit hard throughout. So we think there's a transmission line issues that slows the process down. But we still have so much water. It's just really hard to get around and assess. But I think tomorrow, we'll be able to accelerate the process and hopefully get something on by the weekend.

BLITZER: Originally, the storm looked like it would miss your area of Alabama and clearly didn't miss your area. Were people caught by surprise? Were they ready?

KENNON: To some degree, I mean, you know, within 24 hours, everything changed from a nuisance event to a serious storm with a tremendous amount of rain. And, you know, most folks did not take it that serious, nor did I. Because seeing the storm hook that strongly to the right at the last minute and then accelerate from a 80-mile-an-hour, 85-mile-an-hour storm to 110-mile-an-hour storm.

Now, that's just -- that was rare (INAUDIBLE). It was a freak. But, you know, we -- we're going to be fine. We've been through this before. And we'll get to work tomorrow and bounce back.

BLITZER: I'm sure you will. The Orange Beach, Alabama Mayor Tony Kennon, good luck to you, good luck to all the folks over there. Thank you so much for joining us.

KENNON: Thank you for having us. We appreciate you checking on us.

BLITZER: All right, thank you.

And stay with us, we're waiting for President Trump to start answering reporters' questions at a White House briefing. We'll go there. Stay with us, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:36:3]

BLITZER: All right, the President is now taking questions from reporters at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- general public likely would not be available until probably next summer, maybe even early fall. Are you comfortable with that timeline?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information. And I called him, and he didn't tell me that, and I think he got the message maybe confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly. No, we're ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced, and it could be announced in October. It could be announced a little bit after October. But once we go, we're ready.

As you know, Pfizer is making this. They're taking a tremendous financial risk, and they're spending billions of dollars on actually making this vaccine. They're at a stage where they're actually making it because they feel very confident as to the results. They'll be announcing their results fairly soon. And, no, he's -- that's incorrect information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he was pretty clear in the way he said it.

TRUMP: Yes, well, I think so, but I don't think he means that. I don't think he -- when he said it, I believe he was confused. I'm just telling you. We're ready to go as soon as the vaccine happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when do you want to see it available? What would be a timeline that you would be happy (ph) with?

TRUMP: I would say that -- yes, we will start distributing it immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But to the general public. TRUMP: To the general public, very shortly there- -- I mean, really, to the general public: immediately. When we go, we go. We're not looking to say, gee, in six months, we're going to start giving it to the general public. No, we want to go immediately. No, it was an incorrect statement.

I saw the statement. I called him, and I said, what did you mean by that? And I think he just made a mistake. He just made a mistake. I think he misunderstood the question, probably.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, if you were to put a timeline on when every person in America will be able to get a vaccine, what would that date be?

TRUMP: I think it would be very soon. I think our distribution process is going to go very quickly. I told you, we've engaged the military. We have a general who's in charge of all logistics, who delivers soldiers. He's a fantastic guy. He's supposed to be fantastic at what he does. And we figure that's better than any company you're going to hire. You can't hire a company like that.

And I -- we look to the distribution immediately after we get the word that it's good. And I think they're having tremendous success with the vaccine itself. I think the results will be early and strong. The safety has to be 100 percent, and we're going to insist on that. And, obviously, the companies are going to insist on that also.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So could you put an actual date to it, January, February, March?

TRUMP: Scott, what would you think?

DR. SCOTT ATLAS, ADVISOR ON THE WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: Yes. The -- As I said, the high-priority people will have --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

ATLAS: -- in sometime no later than January. I mean, of course, it depends on when things are approved and the emergency use is given.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what about -- I'm talking though about the low- priority people.

ATLAS: I understand. Yes. I can finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ATLAS: And then it is anticipated there will be 700 million doses by end of Q1. That's 700 million doses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, by the end of March?

ATLAS: That's end of Q1.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Atlas, do you mind if I ask you a question?

TRUMP: Q1, he said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's the end of March, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's one thing to have the doses, but we've talked to a lot of public health experts who say if this is happening in the winter and you have to socially distance, you can't have the packed lines that we saw during H1N1. You can't have packed auditoriums. You have to space it out. So that's one thing.

Another thing they're worried about is storing these vaccines. And since we don't know which one is the winner, you know, doctors' offices may not have dry ice to handle negative 80 degrees. So these are challenges. Are you prepared to say that you can overcome all those in three months?

[17:40:09]

ATLAS: Yes, because, at least, I've been briefed on the vaccine, OK? And so, all the refrigerators that are necessary -- everything is going to be in a place for this.

There is a very detailed logistical plan that was started months ago and, you know, you're welcome to read it on the web, but basically, yes, all those things are not a problem really. I mean, if people know how to shop for groceries or go into a store or sit in the restaurants that are open, and use social distancing, I think they can do it for vaccines too.

TRUMP: And you also have more than one company. You have Johnson & Johnson, you have Pfizer, you have Moderna, you have others. So we could conceivably have vaccines being given out by numerous companies, and they're all world-class companies. They're fantastic companies. That could happen also. OK?

Yes, please. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Are you prepared to sign off on the Oracle and TikTok deal, even though the Treasury isn't getting paid? And also, does the deal meet your requirements in terms of national security concerns?

TRUMP: OK, they're giving me studies on the deal. It has to be 100 percent as far as national security is concerned. And, no, I'm not prepared to sign off on anything. I have to see the deal.

We need security, especially after what we've seen with respect to China and what's going on. We want security. So I'll let you know. They're going to be reporting to me tomorrow morning, and I will let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what about the payment?

TRUMP: The what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the payment to the Treasury? TRUMP: Well, we're going to see about that. Amazingly, I find that you're not allowed to do that. You're not allowed to accept -- and I said, what kind of thing is this? If they're willing to make big payments to the government, they're not allowed, because there's no way of doing that from a -- there's no legal path to doing that.

And I'm saying, wait a minute. They're willing to make a big payment to the government and we're not allowed to take the money? When does this happen? How foolish can we be? So we're going to -- we're looking into that right now. You understand that.

In other words, I said, no, I want a big chunk of that money to go to the United States government because we made it possible. And the lawyers come back to me and they say, well, there's no way of doing that. You know why? Because nobody has ever heard of that before. Nobody has ever said that before.

Nobody has ever said, well, we'll approve the deal, but we want a lot of money to go to the government because by approving the deal, we're making the deal valuable. They've never heard of that before. OK? Can you believe that, right? Hard to believe.

Yes, please. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a quick follow-up on TikTok. You had said earlier that it was really important to you that a U.S. company buy TikTok. And according to the proposal submitted by ByteDance, ByteDance would keep a majority stake and Oracle would have a minority stake.

TRUMP: Well, we're going to find out about that. We're looking into that from the standpoint of ByteDance. We don't like that. I mean, just conceptually, I can tell you I don't like that. That has not been told to me yet. That has been reported, but it hasn't been told to me. It could be very accurate reporting for a change. So if that's the case, I'm not going to be happy with that. Assuming that ByteDance is China, which I think it probably is.

Yes. Yes, in the back, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Mr. President. Bill Barr told prosecutors that he wants to charge violent demonstrators with sedition. And you told Judge Jeanine that if there's violent demonstrations on Election night, we'll put them down very quickly if they do that. Look, it's called the insurrection. So I'm wondering why you want to use that kind of rhetoric when there's such a --

TRUMP: Well, the question was asked to me about if you have violent demonstrations, yes, we will put it down very, very quickly if there is. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you making plans --

TRUMP: And I think the American public wants to see that.

Yes. OAN, please. OAN, yes, please. Go ahead. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. With regards --

TRUMP: No, just to finish -- look, if there's any kind of demonstration or violence, there will be nothing that interferes with this product -- this vote. There's going to be nothing.

The biggest problem we have right now are the ballots. Millions of ballots going out; that's the biggest problem. When you talk about other countries, whether it's China, Russia, or many others that get mentioned, they're in a much better position with these paper ballots to do something than they would ever be under the old system. And that's our biggest problem.

Our biggest threat to this election is governors from opposing parties controlling ballots, millions of ballots. To me, that's a much bigger threat than foreign countries, because much of the stuff coming out about foreign countries turned out to be untrue. What is true is that many elections have taken place over the last year and a half, using this ballot system. They've been off by 5 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent. I think I read one at 40 percent, 40 percent. And these are small, easy-to-control elections.

This whole ballot system where you can send it in, and it's not even requested -- we're not talking about it solicited; they're unsolicited ballots, and they're sent in -- is very dangerous for our country. And you know who knows that better than anybody? The Democrats.

[17:45:00]

Look at what happened in Manhattan, where they had this kind of an election, and it was so fraudulent that it should never have been allowed to be called. We could have 5 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent off; we could have more than that. The ballots will be stolen. Who knows where they're going. Who knows where they're coming from. It's not just the counting of the ballots, which -- by the way, which will take forever. It'll take forever.

You think November 3rd? You might not have -- I guess, at a certain point, it goes to Congress. You know, at a certain point, it goes to Congress. You know that.

This is a disgrace. This is being done on purpose. They know it's no good. They know it's going to be fraudulent. It's going to be fraud all over the place. Who's getting the ballots? Who's sending the ballots? They have people saying you don't need a verified signature. This is a serious threat to our democracy, and the Democrats know that.

All we're asking, if you solicit the ballot -- you go through a process -- you ask for a ballot because you can't be there for a large number of reasons. But whatever -- I'm doing it myself. I won't be able to be in Florida. You solicit and they send it back. You do it, and you send it back. That's a process that you go through, and it's pretty secure. I use the word pretty secure. I guess nothing is foolproof. But what's pretty close to what -- the most foolproof thing, the thing that really works is you go to the ballot box. It's going to be very safe. I think by that time, COVID will be even lower. It's going to be very low. It's going to be a very safe process. We did it during World War I. We did it during World War II.

The biggest threat to this election is these unsolicited ballots sent out by the millions, controlled by governors like in Nevada, who is a political person, very political, far beyond being governor. Where they tried to stop you from making a speech, unsuccessfully, but we had to move around a lot, had to move quickly.

So the same guy that tried to stop you from making free speech outside, outside, not inside, outside, they forced us inside because of what they did -- but outside. This is the guy that's controlling ballots.

Then you look at Pennsylvania. You look at other places. It is a big threat. And as far as China is concerned and Russia and they say North Korea, they say Iran, they say places. Who knows? Who knows? But they say all these different places.

They can make forgeries of these ballots. They can do things that will blow your mind. And the Democrats know it's wrong. They know it's going to end up being a disaster. Just take a look at what's happened. Take a look at what's happened over the last year with this same kind of thing, except in a very small setting with very few ballots going out, so that's much easier. Not 53 million to 80 million going out. A very small number.

And you know what's happened? Fraud like you've never seen, missing ballots. Ballots that never showed up. Ballots with bad signatures. Ballots with no signatures. And in the case of Nevada, they don't even want verification of the signature. It's a disgrace.

Now, the hope for our nation is, it's before judges. In Pennsylvania, it's before judges. In Nevada, it's before judges. In other places, it's before federal judges. And hopefully, they'll do what they did the other day in Pennsylvania where we had a great victory.

Open up your state. It's unconstitutional to close it. Because what they were doing is closing it, and they're closing it for political reasons. It'll open on November 4th. It'll open up right after the election. But they want people to -- they want our numbers to be as bad as possible, but the problem is our numbers are so good with or without various states opening up. With or without.

But we had a big legal victory, as you know, three days ago. A federal judge told them to open up their state. It's unconstitutional what you're doing. That's in the case of Pennsylvania.

Now, the big cases are going to be the cases on these unsolicited ballots. And we'll see what happens.

All right. OAN, please. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. On the grounds that the Chinese Communist Party has been using slave labor in Xinjiang, your administration has imposed a limited ban on certain products coming out of Xinjiang, stopping short of a full region ban. What is your response to the Chinese Communist Party's spokespeople who are saying that this is an outright lie? Xinjiang does not have forced labor.

And number two, have allies expressed interest in standing with this administration in taking action against forced labor --

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- imposed by the Communist Party?

TRUMP: We don't want to see that. We've been very strong on that. We're getting reports in. Over the next two or three days, we'll know very accurately what the story is, and we'll then take action one way or the other.

(CROSSTALK)

[17:50:02]

TRUMP: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I just wanted to ask you about the WTO's recent ruling against the United States over $200 billion in tariffs on China. Should the U.S. remain part of the WTO?

TRUMP: Well, I have real questions about it. Look, the U.S. -- we just won a $7.5 billion lawsuit, which -- nobody used to sue before I came along, you know, or they used to lose them every single time. Now they haven't been losing them.

But we're getting reports on the WTO. It's not good. Never been good to us. The WTO, as far as I'm concerned, was created to suck money and jobs out of the United States to the benefit of China and other countries. That's what my opinion is, whether it was created or it just turned out to be that way.

But the World Trade Organization has been not good for the United States. It's been good for everybody else, but it's not been good. It was a method, in my opinion, of taking advantage of the United States. So we're looking into what happened, and we'll let -- we'll get back to you fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, two questions. One, you said you spoke with Dr. Redfield earlier, and you said that he made a mistake. Did --

TRUMP: I think he made a mistake, yes. We didn't -- I didn't go into any great -- I was very surprised to hear it. It doesn't really matter.

Here's what does matter: We're all set to distribute immediately. As soon as that vaccine comes out that's safe and good and works, whether it's Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, or anybody else, we are ready to distribute it very rapidly. As Scott said and as our team knows -- and they're ready. And that could be on -- it could be in October, sometime in October or November. I don't think it's going to be much later than that. But I think it could be sometime in October. We're ready to move, and it'll be a very full distribution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you all had the call. You said that you told him that he had made a mistake. What was his response and did he acknowledge that?

TRUMP: No, I didn't tell him anything. I said, what happened? And I got the impression that he didn't realize he said what he might have said. I didn't see him say it. But if that's what he said, it's a mistake because here's -- so, ready? We're ready to distribute immediately to a vast section of our country -- and then beyond, because we want to help other countries also. But we're ready to distribute immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the timeline that he gave, saying that it wouldn't be ready for the general public until the middle of next year, sounds very like the one that you, kind of, just offered.

ATLAS: No. No, I said that there'll be 700 million doses by end of Q1, and everyone in high risk will have it some- -- no later than January.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he was talking --

ATLAS: That's what I said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- he said in general public for next year.

TRUMP: No, we are focused --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wasn't talking about high-risk --

TRUMP: As you know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) healthcare --

TRUMP: Kaitlan (ph), we're focused on high-risk, but we're going to focus also on general public very much. But we are -- our immediate aim is elderly people, and especially elderly people with --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.

TRUMP: -- heart, diabetes problems. But we will have it -- this is -- we're not looking at a small distribution program; we're looking at distributing to the whole United States with an immediate focus of the elderly.

Now, under no circumstance, will it be as late as the doctor said. But I think that, frankly, if he analyzes -- you know, they hit him with that question. He said that. We are ready at a much faster level than what he said. We will have rapid distribution. We're set up -- our military and others are set up to do it, and we think it could even start taking place in October, but certainly during November, December would be the latest. Because, based on what we're hearing, results are -- based on what I'm hearing, results are very good. So we'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So my last question is, you told Bob Woodward the problem with a vaccine is a vaccine will take 13 to 14 months once you have because you have to test a vaccine. So do you want to clarify what you told Bob Woodward?

TRUMP: Well, saying to him -- no, that was a long time ago when I said that. I didn't -- we weren't set up at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wasn't that long ago.

TRUMP: Well, how many months ago? When was the statement made?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't say in the book when it was made.

TRUMP: You know, his book is, sort of, obsolete because the book comes out --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he only started interviewing you in December.

TRUMP: By the way, I read the book last night -- very rapidly because it was very boring. I read it. And if you see what I said, I said a lot of really good things. I mean, for the most part, people like to turn it around, but I said really good things in that book.

And as an example, he doesn't cover -- I told him what we're doing in the Middle East, and we're doing it in an entirely different way. And that's not covered in his book. The whole thing isn't covered in his book.

And one thing I will say -- and I respect the press for this one, which was interesting -- almost universally, we've been praised for the deal that we made yesterday with Israel and with, you know, the two very important countries in the Middle East. And UAE, in particular, where it's a very powerful group. It's a warrior country. It's led by a great warrior and a man who's highly respected.

And if you take a look at that and Bahrain and Israel making a deal -- and I will tell you, we have at least four or five others that want to come in. They would've come in yesterday. I talked to two of them yesterday, and they're ready to trot.

[17:55:01]

And I think you're going to have a whole level of peace without blood all over the sand. Nobody was shot. Nobody was killed. We killed hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. It's all -- it's been -- it's -- I always say, it's the bloodiest sand anywhere in the world, and it didn't have to be that way. The single-worst decision our country ever made was to go into the Middle East. Not only the millions of people killed -- and I include people on both sides.

You know, some people say, you shouldn't say that. I'll say it, on both sides. Such a horrible thing was done. Such a horrible mistake was made.

We're doing this a different way. So we have those two countries. We have at least five that we're negotiating with right now. And, you know, you can only negotiate with so many. I think they're all going to come in.

I think, ultimately, the Palestinians are going to come in. These are all the people that are funding them. You know, I stopped funding the Palestinians fairly early on, because they were saying bad things about our country. I said, well, you mean we're giving them $750 million a year, and they're saying all bad things about our country? So I stopped funding them very early on. But they get funded by other very rich countries. To them, it's like a speck, it's nothing. But they get funded.

And -- but I think now that these countries -- these very rich countries are part of the deal, and they're going -- you'll see, over the next fairly short period of time, other countries will come in. I think Saudi Arabia, ultimately, will come in too. I think getting Saudi Arabia will be great. But I think Saudi Arabia -- it is my feeling; it's not based on knowledge, other than a couple of conversations I had with the king. But Saudi Arabia, I think, will be coming in too.

And you'll end up with peace in the Middle East. And nobody thought it could be done, and nobody thought it could be done this way.

I went to some very smart people. I went to some people in the Middle East, and they said, you'll never be able to do it. It's not possible to make peace. Well, now they're saying to me, nobody ever thought of doing this. They all thought you make the deal first with the Palestinians, it had to be that way.

And I will say the resistance was, some countries didn't want to do it unless the Palestinians were there first. That was just a psychological thing more than anything else, but they were wrong. Those -- the people -- our great representatives that have been doing this for 35 years that were telling me how to do it -- but they all failed. They were in Clinton's administration, they were in Bush, they were in Obama -- all these great, brilliant people. They're all telling me how to do it, and I said, they're wrong. And I guess I was right. And --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, but on this --

TRUMP: And when you see -- let me tell you -- well, let's talk -- finish this. When you see the countries that will be coming -- a very short period of time, I'm not talking in a long period of time -- all of the countries that will be coming in, just like you saw, Bahrain yesterday, and UAE. And I can think of, I mean, at least five that are going to be quick and easy. Others will be quick and easy also, once the five comes -- come in.

So you're going to have something -- you're going to peace in the Middle East. And we want to get out, you know. We want to -- our soldiers are largely coming home. I said the endless wars, the ridiculous, endless wars.

And I will say this. If I didn't withdraw our country from that horrible Iran nuclear deal, that horrible, stupid deal, where President Obama paid $150 billion for nothing and gave $1.8 billion in cash, $1.8 billion. You know what that is? $1.8 billion in cash. That's more impressive than the $150 billion paid normally.

But he gave all this money, all of this -- all of these chips that we had. We had these chips, and he gave them all away. And we got nothing. And, you know, it was a short-term deal. It would be practically expiring now. It would be practically -- it starts to expire, actually, right now. But it would practically be. And there is no way we will let Iran have a nuclear weapon. Just remember that. There's no way that's going to happen.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you reversing the statement? You never answered about the statement. Just -- I'll just let you go after this, but do you want to reverse what you told Woodward about the 13th to 14th-month timeline for a vaccine?

TRUMP: Well, the vaccine -- at the time, I thought it might take that period of time, but we've stepped it up very substantially. And now -- I mean, I'm just telling you this is just what it is. We've been able to step it up very, very rapidly. I never thought we could have a vaccine as quickly as we did, but I freed it up. I freed up the FDA. Dr. Hahn has done a great job. And they're ready to approve something when they come in.

The other thing that's happening that's very different is, you look at a company like Pfizer, a great company, really, one of the great companies of the world, Johnson & Johnson, they're all great companies. They're doing a lot of testing at a very rapid rate that nobody has ever seen anything like it. You know, they're out in third -- they're in the third level of trial. And I think that you're going to see things that are amazing.

When I made statements like that -- that's an old statement. When I made statements like that, I had no idea that we could produce as well as we're producing. But only because of what I've done with the FDA and other things can we come up with numbers like that. We're lucky that we don't have to, because that was considered fast.